On June 4, 1917, the first Pulitzer Prize was awarded. The Pulitzer, which is awarded to a wide range of written media forms from reporting to poetry, is still an honor in the literary world to this day. "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt received the award in 2014 for fiction, forever solidifying it as an important work in American literature. Tartt, a novelist by trade, had her first book published in 1992. In honor of Tartt's 22 years of writing, assembled here are the 22 most recent Pulitzer-winning novels. All information and book summaries have been taken from the Pulitzer website, with the exception of years 1994 and 1992, whose descriptions came from Amazon, and 1993 which came from the Grove Atlantic.
"A successful Iowa farmer decides to divide his farm between his three daughters. When the youngest objects, she is cut out of his will. This sets off a chain of events that brings dark truths to light and explodes long-suppressed emotions. An ambitious reimagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear cast upon a typical American community in the late twentieth century, 'A Thousand Acres' takes on themes of truth, justice, love, and pride, and reveals the beautiful yet treacherous topography of humanity."
"'A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain' is Robert Olen Butler’s...collection of lyrical and poignant stories about the aftermath of the Vietnam War and its enduring impact on the Vietnamese. Written in a soaring prose, Butler’s haunting and powerful stories blend Vietnamese folklore and contemporary American realities, creating a vibrant panorama that is epic in its scope. "
"Quoyle is a hapless, hopeless hack journalist living and working in New York. When his no-good wife is killed in a spectacular road accident, Quoyle heads for the land of his forefathers -- the remotest corner of far-flung Newfoundland. With 'the aunt' and his delinquent daughters -- Bunny and Sunshine -- in tow, Quoyle finds himself part of an unfolding, exhilarating Atlantic drama. 'The Shipping News' is an irresistible comedy of human life and possibility."
"'The Stone Diaries' is one ordinary woman's story of her journey through life...Her life is vivid with incident, and yet she feels a sense of powerlessness. She listens, she observes, and through sheer force of imagination she becomes a witness of her own life: her birth, her death, and the troubling misconnections she discovers between. Daisy's struggle to find a place for herself in her own life is a paradigm of the unsettled decades of our era."
"Frank Bascombe is no longer a sportswriter, yet he's still living in Haddam, New Jersey, where he now sells real estate...In the midst of his so-called Existence Period, Frank is happy enough in his peculiar way, more or less sheltered from fresh pain and searing regret."
"A visionary account of American life —and the long-awaited sequel to one of the most celebrated novels of the past decade — 'Independence Day' reveals a man and our country with unflinching comedy and the specter of hope and even permanence, all of which Richard Ford evokes with keen intelligence, perfect emotional pitch and a voice invested with absolute authority."
"Young Martin Dressler begins his career as a helper in his father's cigar store. In the course of his restless young manhood, he makes a swift and eventful rise to the top. His visions grow more and more fantastical as he plans his ultimate creation: the Grand Cosmo, in which he attempts to capture the entire world and its dreams."
"The Grand Cosmo is his triumph and his undoing, the bold conclusion to this biography of the twentieth-century notion of progress, this mesmerizing journey to the heart of the American dream."
"Seymour "Swede" Levov--a legendary high school athlete, a devoted family man, a hard worker, the prosperous inheritor of his father's Newark glove factory--comes of age in thriving triumphant postwar America. But everything he loves is lost when the country begins to to run amok in the turbulent 1960s."
"'American Pastoral' presents a vivid portrait of how the innocence of Swede Levov is swept away by the times — of how everything industriously created by his family in America over three generations is left in a shambles by the explosion of a bomb in his own bucolic backyard."
"In 'The Hours,' Michael Cunningham, who is recognized as 'one of our very best writers' (Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times), draws inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters who are struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair."
"With rare ease and assurance, Cunningham makes the two women's lives converge with Virginia Woolf's in an unexpected and heart — breaking way during the party for Richard. As the novel jump — cuts through the twentieth century every line resonates with Cunningham's clear, strong, surprisingly lyrical contemporary voice."
"Traveling from India to New England and back again, the stories in this extraordinary debut collection unerringly chart the emotional journeys of characters seeking love beyond the barriers of nations and generations. Imbued with the sensual details of Indian culture, they also speak with universal eloquence to everyone who has ever felt like a foreigner."
"'Interpreter of Maladies' introduces, in the words of Frederick Busch, 'a writer with a steady, penetrating gaze. Lahiri honors the vastness and variousness of the world.'"
"It is New York City in 1939. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat to date: smuggling himself out of Nazi-occupied Prague. He is looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn's own Sammy Clay, is looking for a collaborator to create the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book."
"The brilliant writing that has led critics to compare Michael Chabon to John Cheever and Vladimir Nabokov is everywhere apparent in 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.' Chabon writes 'like a magical spider, effortlessly spinning out elaborate webs of words that ensnare the reader,' wrote Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times about Wonder Boys --and here he has created, in Joe Kavalier, a hero for the century."
"Dexter County, Maine, and specifically the town of Empire Falls, has seen better days, and for decades, in fact, only a succession from bad to worse. One by one, its logging and textile enterprises have gone belly-up, and the once vast holdings of the Whiting clan (presided over by the last scion's widow) now mostly amount to decrepit real estate. The working classes, meanwhile, continue to eke out whatever meager promise isn't already boarded up."
"In the end, 'Empire Falls' reveals our worst and best instincts, both our most appalling nightmares and our simplest hopes, with all the vision, grace and humanity of truly epic storytelling."
"Spanning eight decades--and one unusually awkward adolescence- Jeffrey Eugenides's long-awaited second novel is a grand, utterly original fable of crossed bloodlines, the intricacies of gender, and the deep, untidy promptings of desire. It marks the fulfillment of a huge talent, from a writer singled out by both Granta and The New Yorker as one of America's best young novelists."
"Henry Townsend, a black farmer, bootmaker, and former slave, has a fondness for "Paradise Lost" and an unusual mentor -- William Robbins, perhaps the most powerful man in antebellum Virginia's Manchester County. Under Robbins's tutelage, Henry becomes proprietor of his own plantation -- as well as of his own slaves."
"An ambitious, luminously written novel that ranges seamlessly between the past and future and back again to the present, 'The Known World' weaves together the lives of freed and enslaved blacks, whites, and Indians -- and allows all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multidimensional world created by the institution of slavery."
"In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. Ames is the son of an Iowan preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision of Christ bound in chains and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition: He 'preached men into the Civil War,' then, at age fifty, became a chaplain in the Union Army, losing his right eye in battle."
"'Gilead' is the long-hoped-for second novel by one of our finest writers, a hymn of praise and lamentation to the God-haunted existence that Reverend Ames loves passionately, and from which he will soon part."
"From Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has taken the character of the absent father, March, who has gone off to war, leaving his wife and daughters to make do in mean times."
"Spanning the vibrant intellectual world of Concord and the sensuous antebellum South, 'March' adds adult resonance to Alcott's optimistic children's tale to portray the moral complexity of war, and a marriage tested by the demands of extreme idealism — and by a dangerous and illicit attraction. A lushly written, wholly original tale steeped in the details of another time, 'March' secures Geraldine Brooks's place as an internationally renowned author of historical fiction."
"'The Road' is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, 'each the other's world entire,' are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation."
"Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who—from the New Jersey home he shares with his old world mother and rebellious sister—dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fukú—a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following them on their epic journey from Santo Domingo to the USA."
"Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican-American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, 'The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao' confirms Junot Diaz as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time."
"At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse."
"'Olive Kitteridge' offers profound insights into the human condition–its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires."
"An old man lies dying. As time collapses into memory, he travels deep into his past where he is reunited with his father and relives the wonder and pain of his impoverished New England youth. At once heartbreaking and life affirming, 'Tinkers' is an elegiac meditation on love, loss, and the fierce beauty of nature."
Note: There was no Pulitzer winner in the year 2012.
"Jennifer Egan's spellbinding interlocking narratives circle the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each other's pasts, the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs, over many years, in locales as varied as New York, San Francisco, Naples, and Africa."
"'A Visit from the Goon Squad' is a book about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates."
"An epic novel and a thrilling literary discovery, 'The Orphan Master's Son' follows a young man's journey through the icy waters, dark tunnels, and eerie spy chambers of the world's most mysterious dictatorship, North Korea."
"Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother - a singer "stolen" to Pyongyang - and an influential father who runs Long Tomorrows, a work camp for orphans. There the boy is given his first taste of power, picking which orphans eat first and which will be lent out for manual labor. Recognized for his loyalty and keen instincts, Jun Do comes to the attention of superiors in the state, rises in the ranks, and starts on a road from which there will be no return."
"Composed with the skills of a master, 'The Goldfinch' is a haunted odyssey through present day America and a drama of enthralling force and acuity."
"It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art."